18 Places To Visit Santa In Ireland This Christmas
When I was growing up in the 1980s, a trip to see Santa meant two options: the local shopping centre or the local department store.
Either way, there was usually an elf, usually a present, and always a man in a red suit. It was quick and easy; a no frills experience, but the highlight of the run-up to Christmas
Today, it’s not just about going to the local department store (though that’s very definitely still popular) – now there are Santa “destinations” and “experiences”. No longer just a queue and a five minute chat with the main man; there are train rides, story-tellers, magical trails, forest walks, live animals, sleighs, fire engines, Mrs. Claus, and gallons of hot chocolate (or if you’re lucky, mulled wine). Although of course, it all costs a bit more than Santy in Switzers ever did.
READ NEXT: 3 Smart Ways to Spread Costs for Christmas
Searching online recently for somewhere new to try with my own family, I hoped to find a single list with numerous destinations around the country, but I couldn’t. So now that I’ve done the phoning and the googling, and I’ve put this list together for you. It’s just a sample of the many Santa experience options available – based on good online and real-life reviews. If you have more to suggest, add a comment!
READ NEXT: Chocolate Biscuit Cake Christmas Puddings
1. Leahy’s Open Farm, Cork
The nice thing about this is that visitors can check out the open farm before or after taking part in the Christmas experience. The latter includes a mystical forest journey, Mrs. Claus baking in her cottage, a wish-granting Christmas Angel and an Elf School, then a meeting with Santa and of course, a present. Leahy’s Open Farm is a perennial favourite in Cork, with consistently good reviews.
Admission to open farm, Santa visit & gift
2. Wish at Fota Island Resort, Cork
Santa and his elves are inviting guests to the gorgeous woodlands at Fota Island Resort to enjoy a dramatic and exciting Christmas experience for the whole family. Full of theatre and surprise, Santa and his team of elves are looking forward to welcoming families to a unique event this winter.
Child: From €20
Adult: From €13
Admission includes: Wish experience, present
3. Fota House, Cork
Fota House will be decorated in a beautiful traditional Christmas style when Santa arrives on December 11th. Families are treated to a tour of the house – starting in the long gallery, through to Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, up to the children’s nursery, Santa’s study, the elves’ workshop, and on in to Santa himself. Families are given the guided tour as a group, then visit Santa individually for an age-appropriate gift.
Admission includes: Tour of the house, present
4. Santa at Airfield Estate, Dublin
Airfield Estate is a charitable organisation for educational and recreational purposes. Set upon 38 acres close to Dundrum Co. Dublin you will find a working famr, café, gorgeous gardens and heritage experience. This Christmas visit Santa and his Elves in the magical teepees where you can enjoy storytelling and receive a gift! Feast on a delicious festive treat, hot chocolate or mulled wine and soak up this peaceful atmosphere. It's a magical trip to this renowned Dublin Estate.
5. Luggwoods, Saggart, Dublin
Tales of fairies old and new, magical, different point of view. Talking trees and twinkling lights and lots of other wild delights. Let your inner child journey through this magical land of forgotten wonder, up up and away towards Santa’s hidden grotto. Time is starting to stand still, you just wait and see!
6. The North Pole Experience, The Royal Liver Retail Park, Nass Road
Take the Family to visit Santa at the North Pole Experience in the The Royal Liver Retail Park, in association with Santa Hearth Cause Nass Road for a truly amazing experience this Christmas. There will be lots of features at the north pole for all the family to enjoy.
7. Christmas Island, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow
Christmas Island is in Hidden Valley holiday park in Rathdrum and the “something different” on offer here is that the journey to Santa’s grotto is by sleigh boat. Before that, children meet Mrs. Claus to write letters and to make a Christmas decoration to take home, then the elves take over to do some singing and dancing with guests, before boarding the sleigh-boat for the all important meeting.
Admission includes: Train ride, photo, present
8. Green Santa at Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath
If you're near the midlands mark the 3rd of December in your diary as the Green Santa will arrive by boat across Lough Ennell to Belvedere House. Making his way to his grotto, Santa is on a mission to show children how to pot seasonal native Irish trees, which can then travel home with the children and be planted in their gardens. Perfect for any budding horticulturists and nature lovers!
9. Kia Ora Farm, Gorey, Co. Wexford
A popular farm all year round, this is a good option at Christmas, particularly if you prefer not to book in advance, as you can just turn up (though it does get busy at weekends). Admission includes full access to the farm, an animated light show, and a trip on the mini farm fire engine, as well as tea, coffee or mulled wine, and cake or muffin for the adults. Children can choose their own present from a big selection available, and I have it on good account that the quality is high. Kia Ora farm is very popular throughout the year, and doesn’t disappoint at Christmas.
Includes: Farm access, fire engine trip, present, refreshments for adults
10. Steam Trains Ireland Santa Special
Dublin to Maynooth For something very different and novel, you could take the kids on a steam train! The return journey from Dublin to Maynooth includes a visit from Santa and a present. This can only be booked by post, perhaps in-keeping with the old-style mode of transport.
Admission includes: Return ticket for train journey, present
11. Santa at Westport House, Mayo
Visit Mayo's ever popular Westport House from November 26th and discover a
Packed with magic and festive cheer this is not just a trip to Santa but a full day out!
There's Santa's grotto where Mrs. Claus will enchant children with story-time by the fireside, then you have the Elves who have practicing all year for sing-a-longs and don't forget the festive face-painting. You can also see how elves are getting on in their workshop where you can decorate GingerGread Men and make a Christmas Wish.
12. Rathwood Santa Train Adventure, Tullow, Co. Carlow
This is one I’ve tried myself and we loved it. Starting with a story read by Mrs. Claus, the Rathwood experience includes a train journey, followed by a gorgeous forest walk, to reach Santa’s home. There, elves entertain the kids while families go in to meet Santa one by one. After the return journey by train, there’s the option to try out the carousel, browse in the Christmas shop or visit the café for some homemade cakes and hot chocolate. We did all of that.
Admission includes: Train ride, present, hot chocolate and activity book
13. Santa’s Magical Trail at the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co. Kildare
At Clanard Court Hotel, you follow the Mad Hatter through a forest trail, check in on the elves and Mrs. Claus, then travel in Santa’s Magical Carriage to meet the farm animals, and finally visit Santa for a chat and a present. There’s hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm everyone up after all that activity. Santa’s Magical Trails has a sleepover option too! This one comes up regularly in discussions about good Santa destinations and is always very popular.
Admission includes: present, hot chocolate and marshmallows
14. Brigit’s Garden, Galway
If you’d like to take the focus away from presents, you might like Brigit’s Garden in Galway. Their “Santa’s Christmas Magic Show” includes music and dancing, followed by the lighting of candles, and then the lighting of the Christmas tree – by magic. There are no individual presents for children (though there is a “symbolic gift” for each family). So if you’re worried about the commercial side of Christmas, this might be the one for you.
Includes: interactive show, mulled apple punch and hot chocolate
15. Aillwee Caves, Clare
This is a visit with a difference – children and parents are led by elves through Aillwee cave passageways, to meet Santa for a chat and a present. Mrs. Claus is there to greet the grownups with a glass of hot punch and a mince pie. Santa's train is available for rides all day, taking families to visit the Birds of Prey Centre, to meet a Snowy Owl or Happy Harris Hawk.
Admission includes: entrance to Ailwee Caves, Birds of Prey Centre, present, hot punch and mince pie
16. Bunratty Castle, Clare
The Bunratty Castle Christmas experience includes a storyteller, Mrs. Claus, elves, Scrooge and other Christmas characters. There’s a puppet show, and a complimentary mulled wine and mince pie for the grown-ups (always good).
Admission includes: Present, puppet show, mulled wine and mince pies.
17. Santa’s Island – Donegal’s Lapland, Donegal
Santa’s Lapland in Donegal includes a live show, with an elf telling the nativity story as it unfolds on stage. Santa arrives down the chimney with a small gift for each child. They move on to Santa’s home, visit the toy factory and sit on his sleigh. There’s a second chance to meet Santa at his home, and have photos taken.
Child: €14.50 (plus booking fee)
Adult: €14.50 (plus booking fee)
Admission includes: Live show, present
18. Stonehall Visitor Farm, Kilcornan, Co. Limerick
Stonewall Farm in Limerick has the real Rudolph (well, a real Rudoph) on site, along with lots of other animals and an indoor play-area. As well as the meeting with Santa and a present, Mrs. Claus provides tea, coffee and mince pies for the grown-ups. Child: €20
Admission includes: Entrance to farm, present, hot drinks and mince pies
Where do you bring your children to see Santa?